In a rapidly evolving construction industry, the integration of digital technologies and smart solutions has become increasingly vital for optimizing project outcomes.
As construction companies strive to enhance productivity, efficiency, and sustainability, the expertise and insights of industry leaders have proven invaluable. Within the PlanRadar team, two key stakeholders have been instrumental in helping customers adopt smarter construction practices and facilitate the implementation of cutting-edge solutions in their respective regions.
Bart Crowther, the Regional Lead for Australia and New Zealand, and Vitaly Berezka, the Regional Head for MENA + APAC, have both demonstrated exceptional knowledge, experience, and leadership in the field of smart construction.
Bart Crowther brings extensive expertise in construction project management and technology adoption to his role as Regional Lead for Australia and New Zealand. With a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities in these regions, Crowther has been at the forefront of advocating for the benefits of smart construction practices.
Vitaly Berezka, as the Regional Head for MENA + APAC, has been instrumental in expanding the adoption of smart construction solutions across the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia Pacific regions. With a strong background in real estate industry and international business development, Berezka has been at the forefront of forging strategic partnerships and fostering innovation within the construction industry.
As the construction industry continues to embrace digital transformation, how do you see smart construction management and digital-led construction shaping outcomes of future construction projects?
The advent of digital transformation in the construction industry has ushered in a new era of smart construction management and digital-led construction. A lot of these advancements are poised to shape the outcomes of future construction projects for the better.
One key benefit that arises from embracing smart construction management and digital-led approaches is enhanced transparency. In today’s economy, transparency has become a crucial factor for success in construction projects.
Clients or developers now have the ability to request that their representatives utilize digital tools for reporting and instant feedback. This moves away from traditional spreadsheets and manual methods allows for real-time data sharing and analysis, and facilitates better decision-making and project oversight. By adopting digital tools, clients can have direct visibility into the progress of the project, ensuring that it aligns with their expectations and desired outcomes.
Head contractors, on the other hand, are actively seeking ways to facilitate digital change management with their subcontractors. They recognize that effective communication and collaboration are critical to project success.
We’ve found that the digitalization of construction processes also enables greater speed and transparency in communication between subcontractors and head contractors. Traditionally, communication between these entities has been held back by delays and miscommunication across too many platforms that don’t integrate well. With digital-led construction management, subcontractors can leverage more integrated communication platforms, project management software, and collaborative tools to streamline their interactions with head contractors.
We believe that smart construction management and digital-led construction will have a transformative impact on the outcomes of future construction projects. When we speak about the future of building in the context of innovations transforming industry, there are two mainstream directions – digitalization and sustainability. I believe these are interconnected efforts in the context of smart construction. The use of digital tools and technologies facilitates data-driven decision-making, performance optimization, simulation and modelling, smart energy management, and occupant engagement, all of which contribute to creating more sustainable buildings and transforming the construction industry toward a greener and more efficient future.
Smart construction projects often involve the integration of a number of different technologies and systems. Can you share some examples of successful implementations where construction management software has seamlessly integrated with other technologies to improve project outcomes? What key benefits can this provide for construction managers?
Smart construction projects will usually involve the integration of various technologies and systems to streamline operations and improve project outcomes. Successful implementations of construction project software that seamlessly integrates with other technologies can bring a huge range of benefits for all parties.
One example of successful integration would be connecting project financial systems with communication platforms. A common scenario in construction projects is the need for change requests. When a contractor encounters a problem that requires altering the original plan, they’ll require permission to proceed with the changes, sometimes resulting in additional costs. By integrating this process into the cost spreadsheet or cost system through construction management software, the entire change request workflow can be automated. This minimizes the chances of errors and ensures that all stakeholders have visibility into the project’s status.
Another area where integration can greatly benefit construction managers is the handover of final drawings from the tendering system to the construction management system. In many cases, this handover process is manual and time-consuming. By integrating these systems digitally, the transfer of final drawings and building plans is done instantaneously. This eliminates the need for manual intervention and reducing the risk of errors or miscommunication. This integration ensures that all project stakeholders (including architects, engineers, and construction teams) have access to the latest and accurate drawings.
Our company operates in over 65 countries across all continents. It is truly fascinating to witness and reflect upon the efforts of leading regional builders and developers as they embrace the latest technologies and innovations. An excellent example of this can be seen in the United Arab Emirates, where the construction of Expo 2020 has not only become a remarkable attraction in the Middle East but has also garnered global attention for its unique scale and architecture.
An interesting angle of the Expo 2020 project was the focus on paperless technology and digital project management. One contractor was involved in the creation of numerous custom pavilions, incorporating extensive audio, visual, and lighting technologies, all with the aim of providing an immersive experience for visitors. To achieve this, a team of more than 300 members from the AVL contractor utilized a mobile platform to streamline communication, track progress in real-time, and ensure that everyone was aligned and working towards the same goals.
This innovative approach to project management allowed for efficient collaboration among team members spread across different locations. By leveraging the mobile platform, they were able to communicate seamlessly, exchange information promptly, and stay updated on project advancements. This not only accelerated decision-making processes but also facilitated quick responses to any challenges or changes that arose during the construction phase.
We have found that the Expo 2020 project in the United Arab Emirates showcases the powerful combination of digital project management and cutting-edge technologies in creating an immersive and remarkable experience. It serves as a prime example of how the integration of digital tools and sustainability-driven practices can transform the construction industry, making it more efficient, collaborative, and customer-focused.
Data analytics and real-time monitoring are becoming increasingly important in construction management. What are some of the biggest impacts of real-time reporting capabilities in smart construction projects?
One of the biggest impacts of real-time reporting capabilities is improved cost control and risk management. Construction projects involve substantial investments, and stakeholders are keen on minimizing costs and mitigating risks. This transparency enables teams to identify critical elements that will ultimately lead to cost overruns, budget discrepancies, or potential project risks. By having up-to-date insights into project activity, stakeholders can optimize resource allocation and identify cost-saving opportunities.
For head contractors, real-time reporting capabilities are crucial for meeting project deadlines and ensuring profitability. Late completions can have a significant impact on head contractors’ profits, as it may result in penalties, additional costs, or reputational damage. So, by having access to real-time data on project progress, resource utilization, and potential bottlenecks, head contractors can closely monitor project timelines and take timely corrective actions as necessary.
Subcontractors also benefit from live reporting capabilities, particularly in terms of improved communication regarding build defects or variations. By leveraging real-time reporting tools, subcontractors can promptly report and document any issues, deviations, or changes that arise during construction.
Developers, on the other hand, are concerned with opportunity costs and the completion of construction projects on time. Real-time reporting capabilities allow developers to closely monitor project progress, identify any delays, and assess their potential impact on sales and revenue generation. This also helps to ensure that developers have a clear understanding of project timelines, so they are able to plan and manage their financial resources effectively.
Real-time reporting in smart construction projects can have a profound impact on their management teams. Across all PlanRadar regions globally, we’ve seen that the ability to access accurate, up-to-date information empowers collaboration, minimizing delays, and ultimately driving projects to more successful outcomes. A common challenge in construction project management is obtaining timely reports on project progress and the completion of tasks from the construction site. These updates are often provided in an unstructured manner by different teams, lacking accuracy, or experiencing delays. Having access to precise and current information is crucial for maintaining project schedules and enabling managers to make informed decisions.
To address this challenge, one recent use-case is the implementation of a digital platform for automated project schedule updates. By leveraging such a platform, project managers can streamline the reporting process from the site, ensuring that accurate and real-time information is consistently captured and integrated into the project schedule instantly. This not only eliminates the inefficiencies associated with manual reporting but also enables managers to have a comprehensive overview of the project’s progress and identify potential bottlenecks or areas requiring attention.
The construction industry has historically faced challenges related to project delays and cost overruns. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest project management challenges currently faced by construction companies, and how can they be mitigated or resolved?
In my opinion, one of the biggest project management challenges currently faced by construction companies is the transparency of information, and the speed at which it is shared. Construction projects involve numerous stakeholders, complex processes, and a vast amount of data that needs to be communicated effectively to make decisions and address issues promptly. Relying on traditional or outdated communication methods can often lead to delays, hindering project progress and increasing the chances of errors or problems going unresolved for long periods of time.
To mitigate or resolve this challenge, construction companies can adopt some more proactive approaches:
- Embrace digital project management tools: Utilizing modern project management software and tools can significantly enhance the speed and transparency of information transfer. These tools allow for real-time data collection, sharing, and collaboration, ensuring that stakeholders have instant access to the most up-to-date information.
- Implement mobile technology and cloud-based platforms: Equipping project teams with mobile devices and utilizing cloud-based platforms enables them to capture and share information in real-time, no matter whether they are on site, in remote locations, or in the back office.
- Establish regular communication channels: Teams should prioritize the establishment of clear communication channels between all project stakeholders. Regular project meetings, digital collaboration platforms, and instant messaging tools can help to streamline communication, ensure everyone is on the same page, and facilitate quick responses to problems.
- Invest in training and education: Construction companies should provide comprehensive training to their teams on the effective use of digital tools and project management software. By enhancing digital literacy and equipping employees with the necessary skills, construction teams can make sure there is smooth adoption of new technologies and get the most out of their benefits.
Many recent large-scale construction projects feature technologically advanced designs that necessitate the coordination and management of unique materials, sophisticated machinery, engineering equipment, and qualified labour. Consequently, some of these projects are prone to delays and cost overruns. Implementing the concept of smart construction, which supports comprehensive project management throughout the project lifecycle, is vital for achieving success. Technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and digital project management tools play a crucial role in attaining measurable business objectives such as safety, schedule adherence, cost control, delivery scope, and sustainability. By leveraging these innovative tools, construction professionals can optimize project management practices, enhance collaboration, and ensure the project’s overall success.
Sustainability is an increasing expectation in the construction industry globally. In your opinion, how can smart construction support sustainable practices and help construction companies achieve their environmental / ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals?
Smart construction plays a crucial role in supporting sustainable practices and helping construction companies achieve their environmental and ESG goals. One of the key ways in which smart construction contributes to sustainability is by enabling the elimination of waste, reducing rework, and minimizing defects through the use of advanced analytics and digital tools.
Technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM), Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics are able to optimize construction processes and reduce resource waste. For example, real-time monitoring of energy usage in smart buildings can help identify opportunities for energy conservation and optimization. By monitoring and controlling lighting, heating, and cooling systems based on occupancy or environmental conditions, energy waste can be minimized. Data analytics can also detect patterns of material waste and identify areas where rework or defects are prevalent, enabling targeted interventions to reduce these issues.
Smart construction also allows teams to share design/build plan information, collaborate on sustainable solutions, and identify potential clashes or conflicts early on. This more collaborative approach reduces rework and ensures that sustainable design principles are integrated from the start of the project.
We are seeing more and more that smart construction plays a vital role in supporting sustainable practices and helping construction companies achieve their ESG goals. Smarter construction methods can enable data-driven decision-making for stakeholders at all levels. All of these sustainability factors play a considerable part in reducing the carbon footprint of construction projects, at all stages from build to operation. Digitalization in smart construction involves the integration of advanced technologies and data-driven processes to optimize various aspects of building design, construction, and operation. Sustainability, on the other hand, focuses on reducing the environmental impact of buildings, promoting resource efficiency, and enhancing occupant comfort and well-being. Sustainable building practices focus on reducing energy consumption, carbon emissions, water usage, and waste generation. To enhance sustainability in construction, leveraging digital technology is key. For instance, utilizing project management platforms can minimize rework and material waste. Additionally, IoT sensors can optimize the operation of construction machinery. By embracing these digital solutions, the construction industry can make significant strides in achieving greater sustainability and minimizing its environmental impact.
What advice would you give for construction businesses or construction managers looking to make the switch to smart construction practices?
When considering a switch to smart construction practices, there are several key pieces of advice I would give to construction businesses and managers:
- Identify problem areas and pain points: Start by assessing your company’s current operations, and identifying the areas that are causing the most inefficiencies or costing profit returns. By finding key pain points, you can focus your efforts on implementing smart processes in the areas that will have the most significant impact on your business.
- Think outside the box: Look for innovative solutions and tools that can address the specific challenges identified. There is a wide range of smart construction tools available, such as project management software, digital collaboration platforms, and IoT-enabled devices. Research and evaluate these options to find the best fit. Keep in mind that the goal should not only be to reduce costs, but also to enhance project quality and enable a higher standard of work for your teams.
- Find the balance between cost-effectiveness and quality: While cost-effectiveness is important, it’s crucial to find a balance between cutting costs and maintaining quality. Smart construction practices can enable efficiencies and cost savings, but it’s equally essential to focus on delivering a high-quality product or service.
- Engage key stakeholders: Before implementing smart construction practices, source feedback and input from your key stakeholders, including clients, employees, and subcontractors. Walk through their expectations, concerns, and goals regarding automation and digitization. This collaborative approach will help ensure that the switch to smart construction practices is well-received and supported by all parties involved.
- Implement changes incrementally: Making a switch to smart construction practices can be a significant undertaking. To ensure a smooth transition, consider implementing changes incrementally rather than attempting a complete overhaul all at once. Start with pilot projects or specific areas of your business where the impact can easily be measured. This approach allows for testing and refining processes along the way, reducing the risk of disruption.
For construction businesses or site managers looking to transition to smart construction practices, our advice would be to start by identifying key areas of improvement, prioritize technology investments accordingly, and introduce workable project solutions that align with their unique needs. Ultimately, it’s about what steps will make the biggest difference for your business and employees – the bigger the impact for users, the better results for your projects.
We maintain constant communication with the industry, regularly visiting project sites, and gathering feedback from end-users. As a technology company, it is essential for us to understand the challenges faced by professionals in our industry. This understanding is crucial in ensuring our success and delivering true value to our clients.
When it comes to implementing innovative solutions, there is always a question of who should drive the change. Should it be initiated by top management or led by those working in the field? In my opinion, it is important to first understand the genuine needs and feedback of end-users, rather than attempting to force technology onto existing processes.
As Thomas Edison once said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” This approach holds true for driving change in our industry. We strongly encourage leaders at all levels of a project to explore new methods, test innovative concepts, and embrace change. By fostering a culture of openness and experimentation, we can collectively drive progress and unlock the true potential of technology in the AEC industry.
Bart Crowther is the Regional Lead of Australia and New Zealand for the global SaaS Construction Tech platform PlanRadar.
With more than 10 years’ experience in the construction industry, Crowther has worked in a number of high-profile and senior leadership roles for companies such as Aconex, Avoka Technologies, Fujitsu, Kronos and Data#3.
Over the last 15 years, Crowther has directly specialised in construction Software as a Service (SaaS) and also business process automation; providing guidance and advice on construction management and business processes optimisation to a wide range of clients, teams and audiences around the world.
Vitaly Berezka is leading business development across Central Asia, MENA and APAC regions for the prominent PropTech company PlanRadar.
With an engineering degree in construction, Vitaly as well holds an executive degree in business administration. His experience in the real estate development and construction industry spans more than 15 years. Since 2013, he has held management positions in international companies that provide innovative solutions to the construction and real estate industries.
Besides lecturing on digitalization topics at universities, he is the author of scientific publications and the co-author of three books. Vitaly is a member of International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI).
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